Beverly Hills, Chicago
“and the people live till they have white hair”
The dry brown coughing beneath their feet,
(Only a while, for the handyman is on his way)
These people walk their golden gardens.
We say ourselves fortunate to be driving by today.
That we may look at them, in their gardens where
The summer ripeness rots. But not raggedly.
Even the leaves fall down in lovelier patterns here.
And the refuse, the refuse is a neat brilliancy.
When they flow sweetly into their houses
With softness and slowness touched by that everlasting gold,
We know what they go to. To tea. But that does not mean
They will throw some little black dots into some water and add sugar and the juice of the cheapest lemons that are sold,
While downstairs that woman’s vague phonograph bleats, “Knock me a kiss.”
And the living all to be made again in the sweatingest physical manner
Tomorrow. . . . Not that anybody is saying that these people have no trouble.
Merely that it is trouble with a gold-flecked beautiful banner.
Nobody is saying that these people do not ultimately cease to be. And
Sometimes their passings are even more painful than ours.
It is just that so often they live till their hair is white.
They make excellent corpses, among the expensive flowers. . . .
Nobody is furious. Nobody hates these people.
At least, nobody driving by in this car.
It is only natural, however, that it should occur to us
How much more fortunate they are than we are.
It is only natural that we should look and look
At their wood and brick and stone
And think, while a breath of pine blows,
How different these are from our own.
We do not want them to have less.
But it is only natural that we should think we have not enough.
We drive on, we drive on.
When we speak to each other our voices are a little gruff.
—Gwendolyn Brooks, from Selected Poems (1963)
Let’s kick off a Gwendolyn Brooks themed weekend; three days of Gwendolyn Brooks inspired poetry writing. Today we start with “Beverly Hills, Chicago.”
When I was younger, my family used to ride through ritzy neighborhoods in my hometown to look at the big two and three-story houses with their wide and spacious yards and greener and green grass. It was almost a game to us. My brothers and I would call dibs on the houses we liked best.
“Oh, look at the Christmas decorations on that house! That’s my house!”
“I want the house with the patio!”
“That house with the huge front windows is mine!”
As in Brooks’ poem, no one in the car was angry or hated the homeowners. While we didn’t live in the projects, crammed in a two bedroom apartment, surviving paycheck to paycheck, we were still a little jealous of what these homeowners had. Our average-sized house in a nice, quiet neighborhood was comfortable, but it wasn’t Grandover! It wasn’t luxury. Shoot, I bet even their dogs had mini mansion doghouses while ours lived in a patchy backyard behind a weak fence.
It was only natural to want a little more.
For today’s BlaPoWriMo prompt, write a poem about a Beverly Hills in your hometown. Do you remember a neighborhood that you often took fieldtrips to as a kid just to daydream about living in one of the houses? What feelings swept over you as you peered through the glass windows in awe?